Remote Dispensing System Improving Pharmaceutical Care for Native and Other Remote Populations Since 2001
An innovative solution that streamlines operations, reduces costs, improves outcomes, and ensures compliance.
Twenty years ago, prescription dispensing in rural Alaska was akin to the Wild West. This was not the fault of the pharmacy staff, but because of the great distances between pharmacies and remote village clinics. Matters were made worse due to the inability to properly staff those clinics with qualified pharmacists.
These hurdles left pharmacies supporting rural Alaska with two choices, and both were less than ideal. They could choose delayed pharmaceutical care via weekly mail delivery or rely on a minimally supervised medication closet located within each clinic. This nonsecure locker would allow for floor stock, filling, and dispensing prescriptions by non-pharmacy personnel.
Both options led to reduced care, errors, and diversion. This was the future of prescription drug care in rural Alaska until PickPoint® introduced its Remote Dispensing System and changed the landscape of rural pharmacy forever!
PickPoint®’s Remote Dispensing System was first introduced into Colorado’s United States Army Pharmacy at Fort Carson in August 2001. It was the first of its kind to effectively combine hardware and software to manage, store, and dispense pre-packaged units of use/unit dose medications at remote points of care.
Since that first installation in 2001 the solution has continued to improve. Research and advances in technology have been ongoing since 2001 as PickPoint® lives up to its mission to provide pharmacy personnel the ability to deliver medications to on-site personnel at the point-of-care clinic safely and securely, all the while facilitating the immediate dispensing of finished, verified prescriptions to patients, regardless of if the point-of-care clinic is down the hall or around the world! That’s why PickPoint® is known as an innovator in telehealth.
Combined with video conferencing, PickPoint®’s Remote Dispensing System allows pharmacies the opportunity to provide the same standard of real-time care to all their patients regardless of the patient’s location.
In April of 2003, Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC)—the central pharmacy for rural Alaska working in conjunction with Indian Health Service—was granted status as an Alternative Demonstration Project. This status allowed ANMC to start a pilot telepharmacy program to provide improved pharmacy services to the remote villages of Southcentral Alaska. By August, ANMC received a financial grant from Health Resources and Services Administration to help officially start up the pilot program.
The pilot program was a six-month test to see which remote dispensing system would serve the rural Southcentral Alaska network best. Two telepharmacy dispensing solutions, including the PickPoint® Remote Dispensing System, were compared across five remote pharmacies. The pilot program focused on alleviating difficulties presented to remote pharmacies throughout rural Alaska and providing quality pharmacy care to the patients living in this area. ANMC aimed to identify which of the two telepharmacy remote dispensing systems met the following criteria:
• Hardware and software use and adaptability
• Machine capabilities
• Reporting capabilities
• Customer service costs
• Proven safety and reliability
PickPoint® Remote Dispensing System was the clear winner in every category and was selected to be the sole telepharmacy solutions provider to rural Southcentral Alaska.
The PickPoint® Remote Dispensing System not only improved access to pharmaceutical treatments and services throughout Alaska’s remote communities but also drastically decreased drug costs while improving overall systems and delivering many other benefits, including vastly improved medical outcomes and medical adherence.
Some of the other benefits provided by the PickPoint® Remote Dispensing System included improving medication security, accountability, and dispensing.
Pharmacists also had the ability to use the technology to review prescriptions before loading and dispensing to improve patient safety.
Southcentral Alaska spans over 107,400 square miles and less than half of the patients in the area are connected to a road system. That means most residents must rely on an airplane, boat, and/or snowmobile for transportation to the nearest pharmacy.
Due to these difficult circumstances, providing necessary pharmaceutical care to these patients was even more challenging and very limited. Consequentially, people living in this area experienced high medical and travel costs for routine medical visits. Both factors contributed to delayed health care and poor medical outcomes throughout the region.
In 2001, the United States Department of Health and Human Services introduced the Alternative Methods Demonstration Project to reduce drug procurement costs and make medications more accessible to patients.
Following the initial success with ANMC, PickPoint® rapidly evolved its technological offerings to best serve the needs of its user base across rural Alaska.
The first technological advancement involved PickPoint®’s software application. PickPoint®’s Remote Dispensing System was conceived as a standalone dispensing cabinet that could be controlled locally, or, as in the case with ANMC, remotely. As ANMC added more systems to their telepharmacy practice, it created a need for a software platform that could manage all of their remote systems from a single application. From authorizing dispenses at multiple locations to reporting at both the clinic and enterprise level, to managing replenishment across the entire network, PickPoint® was able to develop and deliver an enterprise-level application that seamlessly gave ANMC the ability to manage the growth of their telepharmacy practice to 35+ locations.
PickPoint®’s software application was so robust and user-friendly that it became a primary application for managing remote clinics and led to the creation of additional feature sets, including the use of virtual cabinets. All the clinics that used PickPoint®’s Remote Dispensing System also consumed other medical supplies that needed to be tracked and replenished occasionally. The natural evolution of PickPoint®’s software application was to expand to track items stored outside of the main cabinet. Consequently, PickPoint®’s software became a primary inventory management system for remote clinics.
PickPoint® continues to add additional technological advances to their remote dispensing system in both hardware and software form. From security cameras to touchscreens to integrated barcode scanners, PickPoint continues to improve its product offerings to meet the needs of its rural pharmacy customers.
First Rural Alaska System Adopter – Alaska Native Medical Center – 2003
PickPoint®’s success in providing robust, secure, and reliable telepharmacy services to ANMC naturally led to other regions of Alaska that experienced similar issues providing pharmacy services to their rural populations.
Rural Alaskans are now the beneficiaries of over 120 clinics across the State of Alaska that have implemented the PickPoint® Remote Dispensing System, including the forty-one (41) systems administered by ANMC; two (2) systems administered by Yukon-Kuskokwim (2004); eleven (11) systems administered by Maniilaq (2009); twelve (12) systems administered by SEARHC (2009); thirty (30) systems administered by Tanana Chiefs Conference (2011); fifteen (15) systems administered by Norton Sound (2015); five (5) systems administered by Arctic Slope (2019); and four (4) systems administered by EATS (2021). Most recently, PickPoint® has partnered with Bristol Bay (2021) to bring telepharmacy services to their remote clinics.
Lessons Learned & Conclusion:
The PickPoint® Remote Dispensing System’s technological and client-based expansions have proven themselves to be an integral component in rural Alaska’s health network, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
“We have come to understand the unique and evolving needs of pharmacies within rural Alaska over the past nineteen years. We take pride in the positive impact our solution has had on the Native peoples of Alaska and beyond.” – Kevin Delaney, Vice President of PickPoint®
Southcentral Alaska’s implementation of the PickPoint® Remote Dispensing System is a model of success that other rural and/or underserved regions can follow to provide modern pharmaceutical care to all of their constituents.
“As a pharmacist, nothing gives you peace of mind like an assurance that the patient received the right drug at the right time. In rural Alaska, it’s a big challenge for us to provide pharmacy services and products to multiple remote villages. I struggled with that for years until PickPoint® brought the ultimate solution to that problem with their barcode-proof RDS system.” – Freddy R. Kaniki, PharmD, Directory of Pharmacy, Alaska Rural Hospital
Take the power of your pharmacy team further with the PickPoint® Remote Dispensing System. PickPoint® makes it easy for you to add remote dispensing to your clinics and points-of-care facilities. Learn more at PickPoint.com.